Sunday, January 18, 2009

We're sorry, but the blog post you selected is not available from your location. Please select another blog.

A phrase I am growing heartily tired of reading:

"We're sorry, but the clip you selected is not available from your location. Please select another clip."

It's a phrase Canadians - and web surfers around the world - encounter more and more frequently when friends and pundits in the US with blogs post video clips online. It appears in the middle of the black box where the video would play. If it would play.

NBC does it. Hulu, a growing presence as a host site for television episodes from numerous networks, does it. When "Daily Show" clips are posted, Canadians see "In Canada, Comedy Central Videos are available on The Comedy Network", with a link to The Comedy Network's home page. If you want to find the Daily Show clip your friend posted, you can always go to the show's sub-page and start guessing. Good luck with that.

Yahoo, Google, MSN and various other major websites try to force users, based on IP address, to use nation-specific subsites. I - and millions of other Canadians - had to lie to Yahoo about my location in order to get a "yahoo.com" email address instead of a "yahoo.ca" address.

Yes. We lied about our location. And there are places on the net where people from around the globe, outside the US, discuss this, and how annoying it is, and share practices for getting around it. For awhile, the hot tip was that you could see those forbidden Daily Show clips by copying the url of the site where it was posted and using Google Language Tools to translate the page from English into English. Then the page would think the user accessing the page was in the US! And the clip would play! Cool.

Until someone, either at the networks or at Google, figured it out, and closed the loophole.

I had this optimistic notion that the worldwide web was a sort of international community that was above national divisions, where we were all citizens of something bigger than geographic and political classification and segregation. It feels like that's not the way things are shaping up for people outside of the US at all.

I understand a lot of this stuff has to do with business, and international redistribution rights, and so on. That explains the problems with accessing online video clips (although I still don't have to like it), but it doesn't explain major websites' efforts to pigeonhole their users into country-specific sub-sites. That's probably better explained by the theory that these sites see their users as a product to be sold to advertisers. If Yahoo can promise advertisers in 100 countries that it can deliver eyeballs from millions of potential consumers from their specific country, everybody wins, right?

Everybody expect web users who thought that they were going to be part of a truly global conversation, wherever they went.

ronnie

5 Comments:

Anonymous mads said...

I use a program, Hotspot Shield (http://hotspotshield.com/), to get around it (I'm in Australia). Whenever you want to watch something on Hulu or whatever, just start Hotspot Shield, refresh the page and the site should think you're in the States. It's free, but you do have to have an ad banner at the top of the screen whenever you've got the program running.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Dann said...

At the risk of being crude....

It sounds to me like there are two issues in play.

1) Media companies are declining to allow their intellectual property to be distributed into areas that do not respect distribution rights. Or at least into areas where those rights have not been formally recognized.

Part of the benefit of creating and distributing such content is the opportunity to get paid for your work when it is used by professionals. The major benefit of letting users view content for free is that those users will eventually cause the professionals to notice the content in question.

2) Companies that offer freemail services are looking to recoup some of their expenses by segmenting [and thus increasing the marketing value of] their user base. They have to pay for those servers somehow, right?

Two issues that require two very different solutions, IMO.

--
Regards,
Dann

1:18 PM  
Blogger Aliceq said...

Canadian media web sites do the same thing, from time to time, or, at least, they used to. I never was able to check out "Little Mosque on the Prairie", because my IP was blocked by CBC.

3:08 PM  
Blogger ronnie said...

Mads, thanks a million for the tip about Hotspot Shield. Unfortunately, aftern a couple of hours of trying to get it to run on my machine, it's no go (some kind of a TAP VPN error on installation, and none of the fixes I've found online, including installing Open VPN, has helped. But I hope it helps others.

Dann, it may in some cases be that media companies are concerned about "areas that do not respect distribution rights" but that is simplistic enough to make it sound positively noble :) In many cases it's just the opposite - Canada respects The Comedy Network and Comedy Central's distribution rights so much that they conspire to refuse to allow me to even visit Comedy Central's home page - I am redirected to the Canadian Comedy Network. I find it infuriating in such cases. What if I want information on a CC show that isn't even carried on TCN? Big business is conspiring to limit my access to information and the internet, pure and simple.

Aliceq, I had heard about the taxpayer-supported CBC shutting people outside of Canada of its clips but had forgotten it until you reminded me. Yes, it's not limited to the US, and that's even more depressing.

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HotSpot worked for me, thanks! Used it to watch the NBC "Conan boron rant", pretty funny.

12:55 PM  

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